A68_541.jpg Extinguisher, Fire (19th Century). The Harden Star Hand Grenade Extinguisher Company. Collection of Puke Ariki (A68.541).

Victorian era households often reached for the grenades to combat fires. Harden Star Grenades, first manufactured in the 19th Century, were used to extinguish fires by throwing the blue glass bottle ‘grenade style’ at the base of the flames. All going to plan the glass would smash, releasing the substance inside which would quench the flames. While heavily promoted with advertising and testimonials, their actual effectiveness is an open question. While some versions held simple salt water more sophisticated models held fire quenching chemicals, which were more effective fire quenchers but were also hazardous to health. A spate of advertisements for the extinguishers appears in the Taranaki Herald during the mid-1880s, when they were being heavily promoted by New Plymouth merchant John Gilmour as something “to enable everybody to conquer incipient fires before a fire engine could reach them…” While some original liquid remains in Puke Ariki’s model the large amount of crystallised material at the necks shows the seal in the extinguisher has fallen to bits over time. Like many items in the collection it is only handled with extreme care.

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